Vintage Vino, a classy and compact wine bar in the center of downtown Kissimmee, marked its ten-year anniversary Jan. 11 with a packed house and a party that spilled onto the street.
Owner John Siudut says he felt lucky and grateful to mark the major milestone with the people who helped make it all possible.
“It also feels a little bewildering, too,” Siudut said. “I’ve seen other businesses come and go around here, but we made it. Everything has just fallen into place over the years.”
Vino started out as a wine shop in 2009, selling the finest selections of pinot grigio, pinot noir and everything in between.
But the cozy storefront on Dakin Avenue has come to offer much more over the years, including craft beer, fine cheeses, social events and classes that teach curious patrons the ins-and-outs of an industry that may seem overwhelming to newcomers.
Siudut works to keep the wine world welcoming, not intimidating, to novices who try a class or stop in for a drink after work. He’s never comprised his vision of creating a sophisticated experience at Vino, but he also wants to put his customers at ease as quickly as possible.
Long-time patron Laura Zak said the warm hospitality is what first attracted her and her husband to the venue.
“It’s homey, but not pretentious,” Zak said at Vino’s 10-year anniversary bash. “We’ve been here since the beginning and we’ve learned so much over the years. These people are like family now.”
Siudut and his easy-going personality may draw people in, but his stellar selection of fine spirits is what keeps them coming back.
“I’d put my wine list up against anyone’s list, anytime, anywhere,” Siudut said proudly, retrieving a menu of leather-backed pages from behind the bar. “It holds its own against the best.”
Wine lists at many restaurants tend to be limited, or feature bottles available at local grocery stores, something Siudut attributes to the nature of the industry.
“Distributors come in and offer to print a restaurant’s wine list if they can make it themselves,” he said. “All of a sudden, it’s done by someone else and you don’t have to worry about it. But the wines aren’t necessarily chosen with the consumers’ best interests in mind.”
Building relationships with collectors and tasters – and utilizing his own extensive wine knowledge – is how Siudut keeps his list unique, diverse and eclectic.
“You don’t feel boxed into a corner with this list,” he said. “There’s so much to choose from.”
Siudut, a Massachusetts native, discovered his passion for wine a few years after college when he reconnected with a friend who had become a wine connoisseur.
Siudut fell in love with the culture, and set to tasting and learning everything he could about the industry.
He eventually landed a job as a taster and reviewer at the prestigious Wine Spectator publication in New York City where he worked for over seven years.
But the Sunshine State’s ample supply of square footage, warm weather and business-friendly tax laws proved too tempting to resist.
Siudut made the move in 2007 and committed to his vision by opening Vintage Vino in 2009.
“A lot of people asked me why I decided to open a place like this in Kissimmee,” Siudut said. “I saw the potential here from the beginning, and I still do.”
When Vino opened, downtown Kissimmee was an often unnoticed cluster of small stores, overshadowed by established Orlando eateries and the ever-looming presence of pandering tourist attractions.
“It had a reputation as a sleepy place where a cannon could go off on Broadway at 6 p.m. and no one would notice,” Siudut said.
But the recent Florida transplant was attracted to the burgeoning prosperity of nearby 3 Sisters Speakeasy and the potential to create a hidden gem in the heart of Kowtown.
In some ways, downtown Kissimmee is still trying to shake its sleepy stigma, but Siudut insist the area’s tight-knit network of local business owners work hard to promote its authentic charm.
Over the years, Siudut has planted roots in the community as deep as any vineyard. He hosts benefits throughout the year, like the annual Cancer Survivors Celebration and Fundraiser held last Saturday, with proceeds benefiting Florida Hospital’s Cancer Research Institute.
He’s also a big supporter of his neighbors, referring patrons to nearby Main Street Pizza for a bite to eat, or suggesting a night time stroll around Lakefront Park after drinks.
“Kissimmee is much more than Disney World and the parks,” he said. “We’re trying to keep people here in downtown, to show them how good local can be. There’s a lot of great things here to experience.”
Siudut has learned about many of those great things first hand.
Now, he wants others to raise a glass with him.